Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 1, 1938, Hemsley was raised by his mother. Before he took a stab at acting, Hemsley worked for the U.S. Post Office. Wanting a different life, he soon found himself in New York on Broadway where he received his first big break. He was discovered by television producer Norman Lear who scripted Hemsley to play George Jefferson on the hit show All in the Family.
With Hemsley’s success came his own spin-off, The Jeffersons. The show ran for ten seasons before it ended. Shortly after, Hemsley took a starring role in the hit show, Amen. That show broke ground by being the first hit sitcom centered on religion.
Hemsley was nominated for several awards and won an Image award in 1982. He passed away July 23, 2012 in his El Paso, Texas home and will always be remembered for his iconic role on the longest-running sitcom with a predominantly black cast in the history of American television.